Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture

How did the world begin? What is our ancestry? What is the source of agriculture and of kingship, and other societal institutions? African cultures seek to provide answers to these questions through elaborate interwoven traditions of oral history, poetry, and art. Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture explores how artists in 17 distinct African cultures have interpreted these ideas and sought to answer these questions. Within that framework, the exhibition explores in depth the nuanced complexity of one noteworthy classical sculptural form, the ci wara antelope headdress of the Bamana people. The exhibition includes 40 exceptional ci wara headdresses, as well as 35 noted masterpieces from across sub-Saharan Africa inspired by distinctive myths of origin ranging from the Dogon of Mali, the Senufo of Côte d’Ivoire, and the Yoruba of Nigeria to the Luba and Kuba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Chokwe of Angola, and the Ntwane of South Africa.

Double-Headed N'gonzon Koun Headdress, early 20th century

Double-Headed N’gonzon Koun Headdress, early 20th century
Banimounitié region, Mali; Bamana peoples
Wood, patina, and smoke; L. 24 1/4 in. (61.5 cm)
Private collection.

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